"Solar" is the Latin word for "sun" and it's a powerful source of energy. In fact, the sunlight that shines on the Earth in just one hour could meet world energy demand for an entire year!
Nothing new under the sun
People have used the sun as a heat source for thousands of years. Families in ancient Greece built their homes to get the most sunlight during the cold winter months. In the 1830s, explorer John Herschel used a solar collector to cook food during an adventure in Africa.
Shedding new light on solar
We can also use solar energy to make electricity. If you've seen a house with big shiny panels on the roof, that family is using solar energy.
Utility companies make solar power too! When you see a lot of solar panels together like this, that's called a solar farm, solar garden, or solar array.
Why don't we use solar energy all the time?
Solar energy needs the sun, and the sun doesn't always shine. However, as technology improves and costs go down, energy companies are installing more solar energy gardens to generate clean, renewable energy.
Alliant Energy is also installing giant batteries next to some of our solar gardens to save up energy, so we can use it later when the sun isn't shining.